Photo by Jeri A. Gulsby | UA Athletics
The Alabama softball team clinched at least a share of its third straight Southeastern Conference title as the Crimson Tide run-ruled Florida, 9-1, Saturday afternoon in front of 3,640 fans at Rhoads Stadium. With the win, Alabama improved to 46-6 overall and 22-5 in the SEC, while Florida dropped to 44-9 overall and 21-6 in the SEC. A win by the Tide tomorrow and it seals sole possession of the SEC regular season title. Alabama cranked out seven hits on the day, including two by junior Kayla Braud. Courtney Conley knocked in three runs for Alabama, while Jazlyn Lunceford drove in two. The run-rule loss for the Gators was its first since Kentucky did the honors on April 1 of last season.
The Crimson Tide can claim the league crown outright with a win in today's 3 p.m. series finale at Rhoads Stadium, which will be televised by ESPNU. UA will share the title with UF and Tennessee if the Gators win. "We don't want to share anything with anyone, and especially not in front of our home crowd," Tide senior catcher Kendall Dawson said. "We don't want them celebrating in front of our crowd." Alabama gave Florida nothing to celebrate Saturday in front of a rowdy crowd of 3,640. Shortstop Kaila Hunt, who committed three errors in Friday's 4-1 loss, jumped on the first pitch she saw leading off the bottom of the second inning and sent it sailing over the left-field fence for a solo home run to give UA a 1-0 lead. "In softball you have to kind of have a short-term memory," Hunt said. "It's a long season. You're going to make errors. If it was the pitch that I was looking for, then I was planning on (swinging away). It just worked out. It was an inside pitch, and I just went with it."
All around Baltimore, football fans are lamenting the loss of Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs for most, if not all of the 2012 season. Suggs tore his Achilles Tendon, depending on what the true story ends up being, playing basketball or running conditioning drills. Suggs believes he will be back before the end of the season, but most medical experts think that might be more of a medical miracle than he might want to believe. Either way, the Ravens know they have to truly become the classic definition of the term, "next man up." When the team drafted Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, many applauded the pick, knowing there would be a question as to whether fourth year veteran Paul Kruger could take over that position full-time and be more than just a situational pass rusher. Now, it appears that the Kruger experiment will continue and Upshaw will be fast-tracked to start immediately in Suggs' place. The Ravens also have outside linebackers Albert McClellan and Sergio Kindle on the roster and while both could step up in some capacity, there is no question the Ravens will prefer to see Upshaw step up and make a rightful claim to that position starting next week at the team's first mini-camp.
"Dre will be a very good player in time. He started the last two years and I see him as an outside corner," Savage said. "His advantages are he is a really tall corner and he can really press and run. He might struggle in zone early, but if they play press coverage he could really be successful. Last season I saw him for all 14 games and teams hardly went at him. Now as a rookie in the NFL teams are going to go at him."
Of the three front-seven players -- Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Jake Bequette -- who will have the best rookie year? --@tomwatsonpats, via Twitter
Good question, and I'll go with Hightower because I think he'll have more of an opportunity to play due to his versatility. He can play in any front, whether it's the 4-3, 3-4 or nickel, so he should have plenty of chances to get on the field. Plus, if Jerod Mayo or Brandon Spikes suffer an injury, Hightower will be a starter. I think Jones and Bequette have the talent to earn starting-caliber reps, but the Patriots' defensive line has so much depth that they'll probably be used as rotational players until -- or, unless -- they prove they deserve to be on the field for every down, as Mark Anderson showed later last season. In four-man fronts, Jones and Bequette will rotate with Jonathan Fanene, Trevor Scott, Brandon Deaderick, Markell Carter, Jermaine Cunningham and Rob Ninkovich, among others. The Patriots will also add Andre Carter to the mix if he's healthy. In a few years, I believe Hightower and Jones will be high-octane playmakers, and Bequette could be a sturdy, reliable piece on the edge. But in 2012, Hightower should have the best opportunity to contribute.
Mark Barron will eventually connect with Bucs fans, but it won't be orally. A gift for gab is not among his many talents. The former Alabama safety is quiet as church prayer. In the jaw-jacking world of professional sports, that can be refreshing. But almost as soon as last month's first-round draft pick arrived in Tampa, it was obvious Barron disdains interviews and sees no reason to expand his responses into a few words when syllables will do. "I am a serious guy. But, I mean, I can have fun," Barron said Saturday, the second day of the Bucs' rookie minicamp. "It ain't to the point where I can't have fun. I will talk. But I ain't the type when I walk into the room where I'm going to talk to everybody."
Chapman, meanwhile, might have been a higher round pick if not for a torn anterior cruciate ligament during his senior season at Alabama. He was faced with a choice to get the surgery, miss the season and be healthier sooner (i.e. for the draft), or postpone the surgery, deal with it and play the season. He chose to play in order to compete for a national title, which Alabama won. You can find a lot of players Chapman's size, but finding one who places that type of priority on winning is exactly what the Colts need now. How soon Chapman becomes healthy enough to play remains to be seen. The hope is he can compete by the time regular training camp opens. He puts his postseason surgery rehabilitation at about 50 percent right now.
It's not difficult to see the landscape of college football as a tug of war between two sides. On the one side, you've got the Big Ten and Pac-12, and on the other is the SEC. The ACC is likely to go along with the SEC thanks to similar geography, similar interests, and a past history of working together. Somewhere stuck in the middle is the Big 12. It has been burned by both sides. It lost Nebraska to the Big Ten, Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC, and nearly its entire existence to the Pac-12 before only losing Colorado. It's the least stable and predictable of the five remaining power conferences (sorry Big East, but football is king), and its future is never going to seem all that secure after the episodes of the past two years.
A person with knowledge of the surgery said New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his knee. The surgery was performed Thursday, the person said on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced it. The prognosis is for Ingram to return well before training camps open at the end of July. Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner at Alabama, was slowed by a turf toe injury in his rookie NFL season. He had left knee surgery while in college.
"As AD, I want to make it absolutely clear that we have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior by our student athletes. Our football coaches led by Coach McElwain cooperated fully with the police investigation and we acted immediately to suspend the players from the team indefinitely—a suspension that is now permanent," Graham wrote. "The Department of Athletics is fully supportive of the University's processes for addressing this type of incident, and while the results of such processes are typically not public, there is an exception when the allegations concern violence, including assault offenses. For that reason, I am able to report now that players Mike Orakpo, Nordly Capi, and Colton Paulhus have been expelled from Colorado State, effective Monday May 7."